Carrie Fisher's devotion to sarcasm and the higher form of wisecracking has made her an invigorating literary voice; her comic novel Postcards from the Edge
is every bit the equal of Anita Loos's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
or Elaine Dundy's The Dud Avocado
. Aside from this, Fisher is forever Princess Leia, the heroine of the ruinously popular but seminal Star Wars
movies; for anyone of a certain generation who grew up on those films, we have a vested interest in Fisher and how she's holding up, and that interest is not always compassionate. At one point in this one-woman show, Fisher talks about googling herself and finding an article condemning her for putting on weight, obviously written by a male who had grown up on sexual fantasies of her as Leia in a bikini chained to Jabba the Hutt, and this is only one especially crude example of the surreal quality of her existence. In Postcards
, Fisher's alter ego Suzanne Vale says that she can see that a lot of her life is good, but she can't feel her life, and it's clear that if Suzanne or Fisher fully felt or comprehended everything that had happened to them, they'd collapse.
Fisher has collapsed, of course, several times, but she keeps getting back up with a snappy one-liner; this attitude could feel glib or evasive, but it never does here, mainly because of her likeably messy warmth as a person. She's the exact opposite of her mother Debbie Reynolds, the ultimate cold showbiz pro whose smile is as unbreakable as armor as she sings "Tammy"
for the five thousandth time in her club act. When Fisher comes out at the top of her show, she works the crowd in a slippery way; though she's done this material many times by now, there's nothing slick about her delivery. Fisher stumbles sometimes, she works for her laughs, she gets charmingly discombobulated, and she plays the whole performance in pajamas and bare feet; this makes it seem like we're just sitting in her living room chatting with her.
Fisher runs into a no-doubt unexpected problem: a lot of the elderly audience I saw this with didn't really know Star Wars
. The old woman next to me said that she had never seen it, and even if some others had, they weren't at all invested in Star Wars
minutia. I enjoyed seeing Fisher put on her old Princess Leia hair buns
, but this little frisson isn't going to work for Broadway audiences, so many of whom are 150 years old. They like the Debbie and Eddie Fisher stories, and they're back with her when she recounts her tales of addiction and mental illness in the second act, but this is a show that is going to play better to Broadway tourists. To be honest, I feel that Carrie Fisher is one of those few performers and icons who is essentially above criticism; may the force be with her.
(photo credit: Joan Marcus)